The picture of Montana’s best football teams is becoming a bit clearer after Week 3 of the high school football season.
There were some great head-to-head battles on paper in Week 3, featuring teams with championship pedigree squaring off around the state. There were some thrilling finishes, as well as a couple of eye-popping blowouts, shedding light on who the true contenders are.
- Billings West went on the road and knocked off previously unbeaten Kalispell Flathead, 42-20. DeMarcus Carr ran all over the Braves, scoring four touchdowns on the ground, helping the Bears’ offense look nearly unstoppable. Although Billings West has a loss on its record, the Bears look to be as good as any team in Class AA.
- In another matchup of unbeaten teams, Great Falls High outlasted Missoula Sentinel, 33-30, in overtime at Memorial Stadium. Quarterback Blake Thelen scored on a keeper from 1 yard out in the overtime period to give the Bison the victory and a 3-0 start. Great Falls High should be taken as a serious contender in the AA ranks.
- Hamilton and Columbia Falls continue to dominate the rest of the Western A. The Broncs put up a ton of points against Browning, winning 70-28, and Columbia Falls beat perennial title contender Dillon, 48-20. Billings Central might be the only team in Class A that can slow the two Western A powers down.
- It appears as if Belgrade is a contender in Class A once again. The Panthers knocked off visiting Miles City 27-21 thanks to the efforts of senior Easton Page, who scored a pair of 60-yard touchdowns. The Panthers sit atop the Eastern A with Billings Central at 3-0. The three teams that Belgrade has defeated are combined 3-6, so the meat of the schedule will be telling for the Panthers’ playoff hopes.
- Bigfork and Florence were two of the Western B’s representatives in the playoffs in 2017 and are both expected to be competitive again this season. However, Bigfork beat down Florence in their conference showdown Friday night, 44-15. The Vikings led 23-0 after the first quarter and 37-8 at halftime. Bigfork has built confidence through its early season victories and has a shot at knocking off two-time defending state champion Eureka in Week 4.
- Fairfield could be the biggest threat to Eureka’s opportunity for a third consecutive Class B state title. The Eagles went on the road to Missoula Loyola and dominated the Rams, 38-6, behind Ryder Meyer’s three first-half passing touchdowns. The Eagles should be the class of the Northern B and now have an impressive non-conference victory on their resume.
- Townsend’s high-powered offense was slowed down by Columbus in Week 3, but the Bulldogs found enough to come out with a win on the road over the Cougars, 20-6. Townsend is 3-0 and has won both its conference games. The Bulldogs appear to be the team to beat early on in the Southern B.
- Drummond-Philipsburg looks every bit the part of a state championship team. The defending 8-Man state champion dismantled its 8-Man West counterpart Charlo, 52-8. The Vikings were supposed to give the Titans a thrilling game, but Drummond-Philipsburg had its foot on the gas pedal from the jump, building an insurmountable first-half lead. The Titans likely won’t be tested again in the regular season and are positioning themselves well for a run at a repeat.
- Fairview is thought to be the favorite in the 8-Man East, but the Warriors will have competition for the conference title. Culbertson went on the road and knocked off Scobey, a playoff team last year, 26-24. Culbertson looks like it will be back in the 8-Man playoff mix and a threat to Fairview’s conference supremacy.
- Big Sandy gave defending 6-Man state champion Westby-Grenora all it could handle in the first half, but the Thunder pulled away in the second half for a 57-28 win on the road. Thunder sophomore quarterback Darian Holocek was impressive, tossing five touchdown passes and running for one more. Big Sandy proved it can hang with one of the top teams in the state, and the Pioneers should content for the 6-Man North title with the likes of Geraldine-Highwood and Denton-Geyser-Stanford.
- The 6-Man West could wind up being the most competitive football division in Montana. Hot Springs rebounded nicely from its loss to reigning conference champion White Sulphur Springs with a 50-18 win over West Yellowstone. White Sulphur Springs went on the road and survived a thrilling finish against Noxon, 32-27. White Sulphur Springs has notched victories over Noxon and Hot Springs, positioning the Hornets atop the 6-Man West early in the season. Noxon proved it will be competitive, too, even in the loss.
- Grass Range-Winnett might finally have climbed the mountain into the 6-Man elite in 2018. The Rangers knocked off 2017 6-Man runner-up Bridger at home, 27-0. Bridger has been the team to beat in the conference in recent years, winning back-to-back conference titles, but the Rangers see a changing of the guard taking place in 2018.